Dysplastic Nevi (DNS)


Dysplastic Nevi have an unusual and characteristic appearance and may mimic Melanoma. Regular examin...


What are DN?
Dysplastic naevi are moles which are characteristically large, flat (totally or
partially) with irregular shape, indistinct borers and variable pigmentation.
These can be extremely difficult visually to differentiate from melanoma.

Who has DN?
It is quite common for any individual to have a small number of these moles
scattered amongst otherwise normal-looking moles.
Some individuals have increased numbers of DN, sometimes in extremely
large numbers, with many of the naevi looking quite bizarre. There is a strong
genetic tendency associated with these naevi.

What is the significance of DN?
As noted earlier, DN may be difficult to differentiate from melanomas and thus
create a diagnostic difficult without further examination and or testing.
DNs may be precursors for melanoma. However, of greater importance, is
that individuals with large numbers of these moles may be at significantly
greater risk of developing melanoma, especially if there is also a family history
for melanoma.
Frequently they have abnormal microscopic features and on occasions it may
be difficult to differentiate DN from melanoma.

Where do they occur?
They occur most frequently on sun-exposed areas but particularly on
intermittently sun exposed areas, such as the back.
When present in large numbers, they are usually also associated with large
numbers of normal moles.

What do I need to do if I have DN?
People with multiple DN need regular skin screening, especially if they come
from melanoma prone families. They need to be screened by a Dermatologist
who will appraise their risk and determine the method and frequency of their
follow-up. Patients deemed to be at high risk for melanoma are ideally
screened with serial photography and serial digital dermoscopy. (link to)
Meticulous sun protection and education regarding skin self examination is
essential for this group of patients.
In certain instances it will be recommended family members also be
examined and receive appropriate education.

DN need only be removed when clinically suspicious for melanoma.
Removal of all DN is not recommended.

Further reading:

 Download article

view all

Fact Sheet Library

  • Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)

    BCCs are the most commonly seen form of skin cancer.

    view fact sheet
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)

    The second most common skin cancer, it is often rapidly growing and may spread to other parts of the...

    view fact sheet